Sunday, January 31, 2016

Death of the Scooter Warehouse

300 Oak Street was our home.

Boris Loose and several of his friends rented space in an old, industrial warehouse in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Jacksonville after Boris closed his scooter shop, 200cc.

Boris resting on the last official day of renting the Scooter Warehouse.  He was tired today after around 40 trips between Jacksonville and his new place near Orlando over the past month.

The Scooter Warehouse has been the epicenter of the club.  It is where we meet for Tuesday rides, and it was always buzzing with activity during the weekends when Boris slaved away at repairing everyone's scooters.  The place always brought me joy.

But Boris took a job in Orlando several years ago, limiting his time at the warehouse to weekends.  His daughter, Clara, went to college so she left Jacksonville too.  So Boris bought a house with a very large garage near Orlando recently.

Coincidentally, Brooklyn has been booming with development lately.  Two large apartment complexes, stores and restaurants have gone up around the warehouse in the past couple of years.   Boris was given notice that the place was going to be sold and converted to parking for now, then something bigger down the road.

The end result is that we have no hang out place anymore.  Nor do we have Boris to fix all of our scooter ills.Those are big losses, but we will survive.

The last remnants of a once bustling place of scooter repair.  And friendships.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ride Leader

I have been leading the 7 Bridges Scooter Club rides since 2010.  I started leading small rides when my scooter friends Sue and Tim began wanting to take some long rides with me.  I would plan the destination and we would head out for a ride up to 300 miles, round trip,

After a few of those, Russ, the fearless leader of 7BSC, decided to change the old Sunday ride routine, that of meeting at Bojangles, then riding around the area for 50 or 60 miles until everyone split up and went home.  He wanted to join in on our rides.  So we let them in.

Because I had been doing it anyway, I began leading.  Almost every Sunday since.  Almost every long ride too, including North Carolina several times, the Natchez Trace Parkway, Charleston, Tampa, Apalachicola and even Virginia and back.

I do it because I love it.  I enjoy planning the routes, finding the best roads to traverse to make the ride as pleasant as possible.  In doing so, I have found roads that I never would have ridden, even in my back yard of Jacksonville.

A conservative estimate is that I have led at least 40,000 miles of rides.  These rides had between three and twenty five riders.  Never an escort.

In leading, I have discovered what might make a good leader.  I have failed at times, too.  What I have learned:

I have discovered that the best number of riders for me is up to six or seven.  That many can be observed easily.  I can tell if they are dropping back, or missed a traffic light.  We always wait if someone gets held up, but when we have a big group, it is hard for me to see what happens in the back.

We usually ride country roads.  On these, I have found that the best speed for the group to travel is a few mph faster than the posted limit.  This allows us to blend in while not holding up others.  We get passed occasionally, but pass sometimes too.

Our club is a group of seasoned riders.  Most ride on many rides each year.  I know how the regular riders fit into the group.  It is a cohesive group, always in a staggered formation.  When a new rider comes along, we usually just see how they do and offer advice if we see something that doesn't fit our normal routine.

Sometimes, someone will show up on a 150, or even smaller.  This is fine on some rides, but on most Sunday rides, we have some ground to cover.  Puttering around doesn't work.  But we give it a shot anyway.  We will put the slow newcomer in second, right behind me.  I then gauge their speed and try to maintain enough pace that we are not causing problems on the road.  We had one a few months ago on a Chinese 150.  He said it would go 60 mph, but when I tested it against my GPS, I found that he started dropping back as soon as I passed 51.  He thought he should drop off and go home, but I encouraged him that we were fine and he continued to the lunch destination, then rode home with the group.  Two weeks later he showed up with a new Kymco 300 GTI, and has ridden with us on almost every ride since.

I have had a few failures while leading.  It is usually due to poor planning.  The GPS has sent us on the wrong road a few times.  Once led to me dropping a scooter, turning around on the steepest incline ever ridden.  The other lack of planning problem, is that I do not always locate a lunch stop on the heading out leg of the overnight rides.  Not knowing where to stop makes me feel like I am not doing my job well enough.

Riding is my favorite thing to do these days and leading this fine group of friends makes it even better.

On the Strom Thurmond Dam on the very first ride to the mountains in 2011.

The group on the Cherohala Skyway in 2013

Rocket behind my brother David's BMW in North Carolina in 2013

Parking lot on the Skyway on that trip

Five of us on a 200 mile side ride in Virginia in 2015

Eighteen riders on this year's Bridges Ride.

I sometimes take photos while leading.  This one from the Bridges Ride.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

7 Bridges Ride

Last Sunday, my scooter club, the 7 Bridges Scooter Club, had our annual signature ride, the 7 Bridges Ride over the seven bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.

This year, the weather didn't cooperate much, and forty riders waited at Hardees for it to clear. We had decided that, with the rain and wind, that we would cut it from the seven bridges plus the Shands Bridge in Green Cove Springs, to five smaller bridges.  I offered to take those willing to brave the elements on the entire run, so we split into two groups.

My group left first and we headed south on one of the best roads in the area, State Road 13, to the Shands Bridge.

In crossing that one, the 20+ mph winds were gusting from the right.  It was lighter than I expected but there was a big gust at the west end of the bridge that forced some directional corrections.

That was followed by the worst part of the ride, heading through the sprawl of US 17 in Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island and Orange Park.

We got a little separated in Orange Park, so I had us pull over to a gas station to regroup.  Of course, while there, one rider needed to change gloves, then another had to go to the bathroom, followed by half the group.  We were probably there for twenty minutes, but it was all fine.

The Buckman Bridge, I-295 crossing between Orange Park and Mandarin, was a little breezy, but again no problem.  It is a three mile long, four lane in each direction, 70 mph bridge, so not much fun.

Riding up San Jose Boulevard to San Marco was easy, then we rode through the San Marco Square to the Fuller Warren Bridge.  This bridge is I-95 and crosses at a narrow point in the river.  You almost don't realize you are on a bridge, but it has views to downtown and south to a wide, long part of the river.  There was a hard cross wind on this one, but again, no big deal.  At this point the clearing weather was starting to make the ride much nicer.

We took a little ride down Riverside Avenue to the Acosta Bridge where we crossed to Friendship Fountain for a brief photo opportunity.

This was followed by the Main Street Bridge and Hart Bridge, two bridges with colorful steel structure over the roadway.  After the Hart Bridge we stopped at the planned rest stop where we took advantage to fuel up and use the restrooms.

We looped around University Boulevard to the Mathews Bridge.  This one was built in the early 1950's, and is narrow and steep.  We had a strong cross wind but no problem again.

From there we looped around to Main Street and Hecksher Drive to the Dames Point Bridge, the tallest and most dramatic crossing in the area.

Then eight more miles to the Seven Bridges Restaurant for lunch and conversation.  Russ passed out tee-shirts, stickers and patches while there.

I had fifteen in my group, and I believe that everyone enjoyed braving the elements to get all the bridges in.  It was an 85 mile ride that we covered in just over two hours.  That was fun, but next year I am hoping for a warm, calm, clear day.

Pre-Ride Dinner and Ride

Last weekend the 7 Bridges had our signature ride, the aptly named 7 Bridges Ride, where we traverse the seven bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.

Because we had around twenty people coming from out of town, we gathered at Bonos BBQ the night before, then took a nice ride downtown.

The weather was cool, but the ride nice.  Russ took us to the rooftop of a parking garage across from downtown Jacksonville.  I used my new camera for some fine photographs.

We had a large turnout.

Downtown Jacksonville from across the river

Scooters and motorcycles on the roof

Nice light 

Buildings next door

Group Photo.  I preferred this one to the one using a flash.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Snoopy Back to the Kennedy Space Center

This was a busy weekend.  It started with me riding down to Titusville to visit with my scooter friend Bob Arnold.  The mission was to return the astronaut Snoopy to the Kennedy Space Center.

One and a half years ago Bob sent Snoopy out into the Modern Vespa world.  Snoopy traveled to around the world, but this weekend was the time to return him.  He will be part of an astronaut dinner, then put on display for a while.

Rain was forecast for the ride down, but the clouds cleared before I left at 1:30.  I told John Colarusso, a prominent Modern Vespa member that I would be passing through his hometown of Palatka at 2:30, but traffic and a stop to see the Blue Angel's birthplace made it 2:45.  He was there and we got to talk for a few minutes.

NAS Jacksonville, home of the Blue Angels

John, Snoopy and Razzo in Palatka

Beautiful winter ride through the Ocala National Foresr

I was glad to see that the hotel was pet friendly

I then proceeded to Titusville where Bob and I had dinner and discussed plans for Saturday.

Bob had set us up for an escorted visit to the Saturn V and Atlantis exhibits,  Also a meeting with Rodolfo Neri Velo, the first astronaut from Mexico.

Bob and Atlantis

Bob letting Snoopy pilot Atlantis

Bob in the parking lot

Me at the Apollo capsule in the Saturn V exhibit

I liked this photo of Bob in the Saturn V exhibit

Atlantis appears like this after the movie ends

Bob and Rodolfo

The visitor's center and Saturn V areas were great.  I hadn't been to the center since grade school, so it was a treat for me.

The ride home was uneventful, making for a very fun weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Snoopy and ScooterBob to Amelia Island

Yesterday I had a project meeting at an oceanfront house I designed on Amelia Island, a barrier island 40 miles north of my office in Riverside.  As usual, because the route is so pretty, I chose to ride up.  This time I rode through downtown, across the Mathews Bridge, then the expressway to the Dames Point Bridge and Chowder Ted's for lunch.

But Amy, the server who has been there forever, told me that there was no way my food could come out quickly enough for me to make the meeting, so I headed out and took some photos of my visitors.  Then a quick stop at Subway for lunch.

We met and all was well with the house, owners and contractor.  Then I went north to the starting point of this year's Scooter Cannonball Run and downtown for a couple of photos.  Then heading home the light was good over the marsh between the Talbot Islands, so I stopped for photos, then calamari and a beer at Chowder Ted's before heading home.

At Chowder Ted's before being turned away because of the big crowd.

The proud ScooterBob at the marshes.

Both at American Beach, a place that was the only beach open to African Americans in North Florida until the mid 1960's.  A sad tale of racism that was all too prevalent in the south.

The street side of the project house under construction

The ocean side of the house project under construction.

Both on the beach

I like this one of Snoopy on the beach.

The 2016 Scooter Cannonball Run will be starting here.

Snoopy in the late afternoon sun.